europe, Scotland, society, UK Politics, World Politics

Referenda can’t be justified if they never end

AFP_843C6

In just six years, three referenda have taken place in the United Kingdom. At the same time as the 2010 General Election took place, voters were questioned on the nation’s electoral system. In 2014, the people of Scotland were asked on the future of their ties to the rest of the UK. And this June, Brits took the plunge in voting to leave the European Union.

The grounds for these referenda do seem justified. Political tactics aside, each of the aforementioned issues were matters of great constitutional debate, and of huge national importance. The recent votes have highly encouraged political participation and awareness, with turnout of around 85% eligible voters at polling stations in both the EU and Scottish referenda.

As with many political issues, the leave the European Union has created a great divide throughout Britain. With one million votes crucially deciding the outcome of last month’s referendum, calls for a rethink, as well as a second EU referendum, have been loud. Many voters have signed petitions supporting such a move. Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith has even made advocating for another referendum on EU membership one of his key policies.

There is no denying that the unexpected decision to leave the EU hasn’t been problematic. Sterling has seen a huge depreciation, inflation rates have sky-rocketed, and the Bank of England has implemented great easing measures with haste. Universities have been quick to reassure their Continental students of their place in Britain, and are bracing themselves for an end to the Erasmus exchange programme. In addition, anti-immigration sentiment has proven to have manifested itself across the nation, and Britain is likely to remain wary of the supranational free movement of people  for a while to come.

Even if Owen Smith falls short of winning as the Labour party’s new leader, support for a second EU referendum is sure to remain. Last month, huge anti-Brexit protests took place in London, and as many as 4m people signed a petition backing the case for a rethink vote. The Independent reported only days after the Brexit result that over 1.1m Leave voters regretted their decisions, and would have voted in the opposite fashion.

The argument for another referendum is understandable, and does have considerable ballast. As the first member state to leave the EU, Britain has fired a shot blindfolded. After much scrutiny and uncovering of the truth in the weeks which have followed the June vote, it is obvious that a second vote could result in a rather different outcome. Perhaps, had the British public been granted the luxury of hindsight, the vote for an EU exit wouldn’t have materialised.

As much as the sight of the British people turning their backs on one of the world’s strongest economies, a goldmine of extra cash, and the only judicial check upon our government is utterly reprehensible, the result of June’s vote must indeed be accepted. Failing to do so would hugely undermine British democracy. After weeks of albeit slapdash campaigning, the people had their chance to speak. Therefore, why shouldn’t the public mandate for leaving the EU be honoured? Ignoring the will of the national majority would be overwhelmingly undemocratic, and largely unfair.

Granting the public the chance to participate in decision making themselves seems like a wonderful idea at face value. Fully enfranchising everyone this way would remove the need for wily and underhanded politicians, and would give the people absolute sovereignty. The reasons for our representative democracy, however, become clear when referenda go wrong, or when the victory is marginal. Just how and when do such issues become finally settled?

The EU referendum result was marginal, with only two percentage points deciding the victors. But the quality of campaigning throughout the EU referendum has shown how the political class has hijacked the British voters. Many will have voted in favour of a vote to leave in order to escape European bureaucracy, and to – yes, you’ve guessed it – ‘take back control.’ Many of those responsible for Brussels’ unrequited love voted to leave on the basis of racial scaremongering, and were plagued by the classic outbreak of political spin. June’s referendum has shown the very serious problems with referenda, and how politicians managed to play to the fears and factual obliviousness of many Brits. Many would seriously argue that the British people are simply unable to make such difficult decisions, falling into the traps of rhetoric and unintended ignorance.

Moreover, the calls for a second referendum have shown that direct democracy does not, and should not, work in the 21st century political arena. Support for Scottish independence has remained at roughly the same levels since the 2014 vote, but calls for a second referendum have been consistent. When polls show significant support for the cause, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made a revote one of her top priorities, much to the dismay of many Scots. Sturgeon’s biggest problem, though, is how to make a future referendum final, and how to overcome the serious issue of ignoring the already substantial public mandate made only two years ago.

Playing the EU referendum campaign out once more could indeed produce a different result, but would fail to solve Britain’s problems. Leaving such important constitutional issues to citizens is a process that I, as well as many other Brits support in principle. Our willingness to reject the outcome of referenda, however, is more worrying, and can destroy the process in practice. At which point exactly are the people supposed to accept a final result? Switzerland’s direct democracy has created a largely unstable political system. Seeing Britain resort to a similar form of political ping pong would be detrimental to the stability of the country’s legislative system.

If societies are intent on handing absolute sovereignty to citizens, they must be willing to accept the outcomes. Referenda over Scottish independence and the EU have proven problematic in recent years, as they have failed to solve political issues. It looks like the UK’s quandaries with regard to the EU and Scotland could be subjects of much debate and tumultuous campaigning for many years to come.

Advertisements
Standard
europe, Scotland, society, UK Politics

May says she’ll make Brexit a success, but what about Scotland and the North?

6a7d1954-6aff-4868-8fb4-d02f53d0b487_09_theresamay_r_w

Theresa May assumed her position as new British Prime Minister only couple of weeks ago, but the formidable Conservative leader has been served up grave issues beckoning resolution already. Despite being an advocate for Britain to remain a member of the European Union, the Prime Minister now has the unenviable task of overseeing what will be an indisputably tumultuous Brexit. But the process of Britain leaving the EU is sure to involve much trickier challenges than she may have previously anticipated.

Recent weeks have seen numerous activists and politicians call for a second European referendum, in addition to thousands of petition signatures and suggestions of House of Lords with the intentions of blocking Brexit. But the Prime Minister has remained defiant, having accepted that Britain’s democratic principles in relation to referenda must be honoured. In her first Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May was keen to highlight that “Brexit means Brexit,” and that her government is determined to make a success of it.

The developments of past weeks have, however, shown that the Brexit vote does not just point to discontent with current EU administrations in Brussels. Myriad areas of Britain have revealed their anger with the state of the union with the Brexit vote. But how exactly will Theresa May make a success of them? Few could have foreseen the damage to the national status quo and Britain’s constitutional arrangements that the Vote Leave victory has done. The landscape of British politics looks more foggy than it ever has before, questioning the UK’s 300-year-old union, the credibility of UK political parties, and the nature of British foreign and economic policy.

After close examination of the EU referendum results, it is clear that British discontent reaches much farther than to institutions on the Continent alone. A vote to leave the EU was, for many, a statement of deep disregard for the state of British society and government. It is here that Mrs May’s greatest challenges lie. The Prime Minister must work fast in order to eradicate the growing disdain for the British government’s south-east-centric politics, as areas of Northern England and Scotland feel more isolated from the UK than they ever have done before.

The Leave campaign had, of course, generated a great deal of support amongst wealthy conservatives. However, the astonishing facet of the European Union referendum was the sheer number of working class individuals who sided with Eurosceptic viewpoints. The most anti-EU areas of Britain, shown to be Boston and South Holland in Lincolnshire, alongside regions like Castle Point and Great Yarmouth in the East, each show similar social trends. The vast majority of these areas have a diverse ethnic make-up which many have seen as a strain on local economies, as well as poor standards of education, and a low quality of living.

The very different issues which face the Prime Minister regarding Scotland will not disappear easily, either. Scotland’s vote to remain as part of the EU was purely a rejection of English Eurosceptic sentiment instead and, in some cases, to do with growing Westminster disregard for Scottish politics. The support for the remain campaign north of the border has shown that Scottish interests are very different to those of England. Support for Scottish independence has seen a slow but sure increase, and could threaten Theresa May’s premiership. In the same way in which she must repair relations with the north of England, the Prime Minister must now bring Scottish political issues to the fore if she is to succeed in maintaining the longevity of the union.

In spearheading the UK’s response to what many citizens see as a broken European system, Theresa May has much more to repair – Britain’s broken society, and partially broken union. The government’s attention now ought to be diverted back home, to a Scotland which severely questions its place in the United Kingdom, and to the communities of the North of England which find themselves evermore at odds with an agenda of austerity, minimal investment, and immigration.

Brexit has shown that Britain has big problems at home, let alone abroad. Rejuvenating the operation of the union is May’s next challenge. The way in which she deals with such a quandary could indeed make her premiership and hugely boost her already impressive track record. But failure to improve the quality of life and social stability of British citizens in the north of Britain could mean grave unpopularity, and higher resentment for Westminster governance. Shortcomings in relation to Scottish issues could, in time, see increased support for national independence, fuelled by disapproval with her Conservative government.

An ailing union has the power to topple Mrs May’s entire tenure as Prime Minister. Theresa May’s plans as part of her Industrial Strategy Committee are a welcome sign of planned improvements for the northern parts of England, and should bolster the togetherness of the UK. The committee on Tuesday pledged to work on the UK’s economy in areas outside of the south east of England, chiefly in areas of Manchester and in the further north. Rail link projects have also been proposed in order to boost connections between northern English communities, also in the hopes of increased economic activity. There is still work to be done, though. Investment remains puny, and austerity has meant mammoth cuts to public services and local government funding in recent years.

The importance of Scottish issues on Theresa May’s agenda has been questioned further, too. Yesterday, The Herald reported that Scotland Secretary David Mundell was not invited to May’s Industrial Strategy Committee meeting. It is somewhat disheartening to see that Scotland has been left out of Theresa May’s discussions already. As calls for more political powers for Scotland have become louder in recent years, surely the Conservatives should be seriously worried about losing their precious union. In addition, many north of the border still feel that the Smith Commission proposals did not go far enough in further liberating the Scottish government. The narrow victory for the pro-Union campaign in 2014’s referendum over Scottish independence shouldn’t be taken for granted by Mrs May.

If the Union proves too difficult to sustain in its current form, perhaps federalism is the answer. Of course, this is the outcome that the Prime Minister would dread most of all. As the nations which comprise the UK become increasingly diverse and are evidently in need of specific regional solutions to bespoke issues, perhaps a form of ‘devo-max’ across four identical regional assemblies would relieve the Westminster Parliament in its obstinacy that one size fits all.

Regional assemblies, coexisting with a larger federal government working on common issues like defence and national security, could indeed work wonders, and restore public confidence, investment, and sovereignty to parts of Britain which currently feel left out. Scottish independence hasn’t achieved a landmark support increase since 2014, and the chances of Northern England becoming a separate nation are doubtless extremely slim.

When the new Prime Minister took on the challenge of renegotiating Britain’s place in Europe, and indeed the rest of the world, the task of saving the union came, too. The EU referendum has shown up the deep societal and political differences which currently set each UK nation apart. Making a success of Brexit clearly involves a lot more than it may seem at face value. Ensuring a strong Britain after leaving the European Union can only be done be ensuring that each component of our nation works together in absolute synergy.

Unless Theresa May and her government work fast to repair the relationship with Westminster and areas outwith the south of England, the age-old union which has bound Britain together may swiftly disappear. Cries for help in the form of increased devolution is increasing as citizens consistently feel ignored. An agenda for ironing out the profound differences between the societies of northern and southern England alone, not to mention the growing issues relating to Scottish interests, must be solved before a renegotiation of European relations can take place. Making a success of Britain itself is vital before it can be deemed a success in front of the rest of the world.

Standard
Scotland, society, UK Politics

The Tories’ secret weapon in Scotland is working at last

wp-1468775636228.png

Several decades ago, and even up until the recently astounding Scottish General Election in May, many would have said that the Tories are dead in Scotland. Many continue to stand by that statement, particularly as the SNP continues in its sweeping of Scottish constituencies, one of Europe’s most powerful leaders at its helm.

But despite the Nationalists’ seemingly infectious causes, it is evident that support for the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is rising. A more centrist, but still right-wing party, the Scottish Tories are still seen as very subordinate to their colleagues at Westminster.

But the reason for Tory votes in the recent election is not austerity. Instead, it is unionism. If newly installed British Prime Minister Theresa May is to see success, she must reduce the threat of Scottish independence. As the only decisive force against independence, the Scottish Conservatives have seen an unprecedented influx of votes, and may now solve the unionists’ problem.

Conservativism, once a complete taboo on Scotland, now looks markedly less of a target for hostility. The rise of the Scottish Conservatives has seen its leader – the female, young, gay, and formerly working-class Ruth Davidson – receive acclaim from voters, journalists, and more importantly, Westminster MPs. Throughout the EU referendum, Davidson continually impressed even English voters. Checking on the SNP, and presenting the case for a strong a British Union, the safety of the Union – and a possible career move for Davidson herself – is in her own hands.

If Theresa May strategises intelligently, a strong representative of the Conservatives in Scotland could help the Tories portray their focus on issues north of the border favourably, and to their advantage. If Theresa May uses this opportunity, saving the United Kingdom could be one of the hallmarks of Theresa May’s premiership.

Standard
europe, Scotland, society, UK Politics, World Politics

Brexit isn’t progressive, but Sturgeon’s plan could be

nicola_broqsu

The events of the United Kingdom’s political scene over the past seven days have shown that change in politics takes place at a rapid pace. Since a vote last Thursday to leave the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron has tendered his resignation, Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn has been left reeling after damning Cabinet resignations and a vote of no confidence, myriad international markets have become volatile, and many British citizens are now profoundly divided – both politically and socially.

For those voters who are startled by violent change, or simply prefer the status quo, then at least some of the Remain campaign’s predictions seem to have translated into reality. They don’t make for comfortable listening, though. Needless to say, supporters of a vote to remain as a member of the EU claimed that economic hardship, extremism, and constitutional crises would disease our societal construct in the light of a Brexit.

As if the murder of an MP and the demonisation of many ethnic minorities were not demoralising enough, recent days have already shown that the fear-centric Vote Leave campaign is infilitrating British communities fast. Many police forces this week have already reported a huge rise in racially motivated crimes, an albeit small minority of Brexiteers rejecting the EU on the grounds of abhorrent xenophobia.

A vast degree of economic calamity has arrived, too, causing pandemonium among CEOs, financial boffins and top bankers. The UK has lost its first class credit rating, the housing market is showing signs of slowing, market trading figures and the value of the pound have plummeted, and some of the globe’s biggest corporations are questioning the security of their futures within Britain.

More fascinatingly, but still worrying enough, is that Britain has pushed itself into an abyss of constitutional uncertainty. After a clear divide between English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters last Thursday, the 300-year-old union is showing its age. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s political arsenal has more artillery than ever, the infamous SNP leader currently one of the world’s most influential leaders with the potential to drastically alter the international affairs agenda.

Wednesday saw Sturgeon meet with numerous EU officials including Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Parliamentary President Martin Schulz. Scotland’s voice drowned out by the largely English-driven Brexit cacophony, the First Minister is keen to spread her crucial message – that her nation’s interests are being overriden.

It is now that Nicola Sturgeon has the freedom to forge new politics for Scotland. With Sturgeon holding an unprecedented global stature for a Scottish leader, the quandaries of Scotland’s interests and position are back up for discussion. In just several years’ time, citizens may bear witness to a fiery independence referendum campaign once again. Yesterday evening, JP Morgan predicted that , by the UK’s 2019 exit from the EU, Scotland will vote again on independence and use a separate currency.

Sturgeon has, for all of her life, been a stringent advocate and guardian of Scottish interests. Over the momentarily slippery issues in relation to the EU, she shows no signs of doing anything differently. The SNP’s 2016 manifesto clearly outlined that the party still saw independence as achievable in the not-too-distant future. For Sturgeon, the elongated EU debate has provided the chance for reignition of the independence flame, and for the creation of a progressive Scottish state.

The intentions of Vote Leave’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove may seem like an unlikely match with those of the truly internationalist Nicola Sturgeon’s. But the aforementioned politics do have more in common than you may think at first. Both sides intend to leave some form of political, social, cultural, and economic union. For the right-wing Brexit duo of Johnson and Gove, the European Union is their foe, and for the socially democratic Sturgeon, the arguably outdated United Kingdom is her achilles heel.

Undeniably, the two sides differ majorly. In a huge contrast, the Brexit soon to be fully imposed on UK citizens is in no ways progressive, support for which predominantly – but not totally – thanks to those of the right. Sturgeon’s possible exit is nothing of this type, however. The plan supported by the SNP and by an increasing number of Scots is for a truly progressive relationship with the European Union – an ethos set to extend to issues of home affairs, too.

Sturgeon only has the Brexit crisis to thank for this sudden boost in success. Glancing over the recent prognosis of the ailing United Kingdom, the iconic leader must be feeling a tad of schadenfreude. Many voters are now having the revelation which Alex Salmond’s independence campaign fell short of wholly inspiring two years ago. The 2014 referendum bid frightened many away from a Yes vote with the worries that independence would isolate the Scottish nation, and render the views of the people dead in future decision-making.

A high degree of political isolation is what many supporters of a Brexit have indeed voted for of late, and its consequences are provingt that a Scottish exit from the UK would be something vastly different. Unfortunately, Brexiteers have voted for a UK nation that will have attributes of deeper social injustice at its fore. It seems that the chances of a more left-wing Brexit have been shattered with the paralysis of the Labour party.

It is Sturgeon’s plan, though, that could eradicate the poisonous epidemic of xenophobia and paranoia currently sweeping Britain. The exit which Britain has made from the European Union is exactly what Sturgeon’s plan for Scottish independence wouldn’t be. Johnson and Gove’s Brexit blueprint has highlighted that Scotland’s exit from the UK could spur positive change, and that the policies for which they advocated during the EU campaign were not progressive.

As a growingly successful – and truly European – leader, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon now has the power to transform Scotland, making the nation a key voice within an ever louder European chorus. Despite being the outcome the First Minister wanted least, a vote to leave the European Union last week has provided the grounds for an argument detailing a more progressive Scotland. Brexit has pushed the topic of Scottish sovereignty back into the political arena, and her case has generated a great deal of support.Prime Minister David Cameron, whose days are numbered, even praised Sturgeon’s EU efforts on Wednesday.

Nicola Sturgeon’s diplomatic campaign this week did not just have the ideas of Scottish independence at heart, but also ideas of a solidarity, social justice, and co-operation. Her position as the antithesis of Boris Johnson has been a real plus. What could have been Sturgeon’s greatest nightmare has turned into a huge political advantage. Many who are dismayed by the new, somewhat backward Brexit may flock to Sturgeon’s side in the hope that an independent Scotland would be a game-changer. Presenting herself as face of an alternative to the individualist and neoliberal case for Brexit has shown that Scotland is a uniquely different entity, and that the SNP are one force of true advocates for togetherness and political, social, and economic growth.

Standard
europe, Scotland, society, UK Politics, World Politics

Sturgeon has total power over UK’s fate after Brexit

nicola-sturgeon

When the major blow of Yes Scotland’s defeat set in during the aftermath of 2014’s Scottish independence referendum, many believed that the SNP would become a paralysed, lost cause from then on. Few would have thought that, under the sturdy leadership of the formidable Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish National Party would regain its position in dominating Scottish decision-making. However, Britain’s surprising verdict on EU membership has proven that Sturgeon’s contingent isn’t just controlling Scottish politics.

Rated by Forbes magazine as the most powerful woman in Britain after Queen Elizabeth II, not to mention the 50th most influential in the entire world, Brexit is changing Nicola Sturgeon and her party’s fortune. Perhaps next year’s rankings will have Sturgeon placed higher. I certainly wouldn’t argue with it. But whilst Brexit is stripping the good fortune of many British politicians, such as that of the precariously placed Jeremy Corbyn, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her party has only gained a position of greater power.

Given that victory for the Leave campaign in last week’s EU referendum was largely down to English votes, protest by many passionate internationalists and keen Scottish nationalists has dominated headlines. Scotland’s intentions evidenced by last week’s vote – of more than 70% support for Remain in many areas north of the border – has clearly shown that policy should take a different direction here.

After arguing consistently that a Brexit is not in the interests of the people of Scotland, the Scottish First Minister’s gargantuan new task is to rescue Scotland from the effects of Vote Leave. But the flipside is that this gives the SNP an exceptional political advantage. Nicola Sturgeon is in total control of Scotland’s future within the EU, and that influence does not span across issues with regard only to Scotland. In the likely event that the SNP leader is unable to forge a deal granting European Union membership to Scottish citizens alone, it will be Nicola Sturgeon who is in charge of deciding whether or not the United Kingdom really is united, refuelling her independence crusade.

The volume of influence that the Scottish First Minister now brandishes places Scotland in a very strong position at the fiery EU negotiating table. The events of this week have shown that the First Minister will remain silent at her peril. The Brexit result which hoped to bring increased sovereignty for the entirety of the UK has in turn weakened ties between Westminster and its sibling Scottish parliament at Holyrood.

Since 2007, the SNP has been the major force in Scottish politics, standing as the party of traditional social democracy, and, of course, independence. However, Sturgeon’s position as a key player in international affairs has become stronger thanks to a victory for Vote Leave. The triumphs of Johnson, Gove and Farage in terms of the European Union have not translated into triumphs for the UK’s union. For a Brexit has all the more accentuated the deep political crevasses which set apart the different components of the UK.

It seems that David Cameron has made a fatal error by underestimating the challenges of keeping Britain in the European Union, not to mention the challenges of keeping Britain on side with his party’s government. A harsh split, further nursed by the Prime Minister’s Friday morning resignation, threatens the future of Conservative party politics. The Labour party is no safe haven either. Ravaged by a leader deemed unable to take it to its peak in a possibly imminent General Election, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership looks tenuous.

71669140_jpg_galleryNicola Sturgeon is no fool. Her party has seen numerous victories of late, and her ability as a skillful tactician is more obvious than ever before. The aforementioned failings highlighted by the shock of Brexit have only widened Sturgeon’s stage as an influential policymaker. In recent days, SNP support has surged, an effect similar to that achieved by the Party during the aftermath of the 2014 referendum. Inner party turmoil certainly doesn’t riddle the SNP. Sturgeon’s socially democratic force is one of the only ones avoiding a rift with its clear-cut policy, and this is one of its grandest assets.

The SNP is a decisive and strategic band, a tidal wave which now seems to dwarf the fragmented Labour and Conservative parties at Westminster. Sturgeon isn’t right-wing populism, Sturgeon isn’t scaremongering, and Sturgeon isn’t austerity. Faisal Islam of ITV remarked this morning that it is Nicola Sturgeon who has “the most thought out plan” for Brexit. In a likely snap general election, the First Minister is sure to pick up some of the votes of those who have become dismayed by the Tories’ and Labour’s endless internal strife. Her shrewdness and sharp-witted nature are her doubtless fortes which have been brought to light all thanks to Brexit. As long this adeptness does not fail, the SNP will call the shots in Scottish politics, and indeed in European relations, for many months and years to come.

With the failings of the UK Parliament parties in producing constructive political change, as well as a vote for Brexit which ignores Scottish votes, Sturgeon’s movement for independence may, too, build in strength and support. A reassessment of relations between the UK and EU has brought the question of national sovereignty back into the political arena. Aims of the Smith Commission evidently haven’t gone far enough, and in ways akin to the post-Brexit case, Scotland’s opinions are becoming drowned out. The contrast in opinions over the EU between England and Scotland serves to demonstrate exactly why Scotland is growing tired of the talking shop that is Westminster. Sturgeon has the ultimate upper hand over the future of the United Kingdom, and Sturgeon’s movements may well provoke a breakup.

More interestingly, the future of Scottish Labour looks grim. The European Union question may well change opinions of the Holyrood party whose support has plummeted over recent years. Yesterday it was widely reported that the Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, will consider support for independence. But this is surely a political death of Sturgeon’s arguably inadvertent making. Dugdale’s extreme desperation for votes in tandem with growing support for the nationalist cause could mean that even the skeleton of Labour’s Scottish branch is no longer safe from a painful fracture. If her strategy is to support independence, Dugdale risks splitting her party between nationalists and unionists, only playing into Sturgeon’s hands.

The European Union debate has questioned not only UK sovereignty, but also the sovereignty of the separate nation states which make up the UK. Recent events have shown clearly that the politics of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are vastly different.

With Sturgeon ceasing the opportunity for using this as a vehicle for constitutional change within Scotland, it is easy to see that the Scottish First Minister’s actions over coming months will largely determine also the United Kingdom’s fate. Along with the most prominent of British and EU officials, it is the Nicola Sturgeon who will have one of the most influential seats at the Brexit negotiation table. Whilst both major political parties within Westminster are fast collapsing, diseased by pathogens of indecisiveness and disarray, it is Nicola Sturgeon’s party which remains dead set on its policy. The First Minister of Scotland only has Westminster to thank for her unprecedented leverage. After the breakthrough of devolution in 1999, along with an intense referendum discussion two years ago, few could have foreseen Scotland continuing to pose such a huge threat to the longevity of the UK.

Read more from Robert Guthrie

Standard